Barn Find Gold Edition: 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano

This 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano Gold is a barn find out of Washington State, where the seller claims it has been stored since 1996. These are the individual’s choice for a touring sedan from the 1980s if you’re bored with E30 BMWs or find the W124 Mercedes too reliable. The Alfa seen here is equipped with the preferred manual gearbox and should help to coax some intoxicating sounds out of its standard-issue 2.5L V6 engine. Of course, you won’t be hearing much out of this car given the engine has fallen silent since its years of uninterrupted slumber, but the price of just $2,000 seems quite fair considering it looks to be rust-free. Find the Alfa here on craigslist in Gig Harbor, Washington, and thanks to Barn Finds reader David R. for the find.

The Milano was cheaper than its rivals when new, and more powerful in some cases. But the car quickly developed a reputation for being slightly fiddly to live with, from dodgy electrical systems to engines that were no strangers to headgasket replacement. And of course, with all of the smaller scale brands that occupied the U.S. at one time, from Fiat to Renault, the dealer network was significantly smaller and it was unlikely most of your local import shops would even want to touch working on what was then such an oddball. Of course, it’s still a bit of an oddball today, with relatively few still on the road aside from those residing in the hands of Alfa enthusiasts.

And those owners will tell you that the rest of us are missing out on what is an absolutely fine driver’s cars. Certainly, on the surface level, it’s hard to disagree. The looks are subjective, but the truncated rear end is like nothing else on the road at the time, and the thickly-bolstered front seats are among the most comfortable sport seats you’ll ever have the pleasure of sitting in. The classic three-spoke Alfa steering wheel is a treat to twirl, and the cockpit dynamics are the sort that make you wonder out loud if the Big 3 had even looked at what its competition in Europe was offering as standard equipment in its bread-and-butter sports sedans (the answer: no.)

Of course, anyone who prefers an Eldorado over an Alfa will point to the fact that the Caddy will be cheaper and easier to maintain, and that’s likely true. The Alfa’s V6 was not known for being easy to live with, but it did provide one of the best soundtracks in a car that didn’t wear a Ferrari badge. The seller doesn’t provide much info as to this example’s maintenance history, only noting that he doesn’t have any keys for it, nor does he hold the title – but he’s working with the previous owner to get both of those items. Since he didn’t receive them at time of delivery, it seems likely the original owner has moved or otherwise forgotten he left the Alfa in storage, so there could be a good car lurking underneath if the next owner has the patience to revive a classic 80s sports sedan.

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    I have owned a couple of these and worked on them when I was a factory technician. I love the quirky nature of this car and always gravitated towards sedans over coupes. The Alfa 75 as its called in Europe is based on the GTV6. Reliability wise I thought they were no worse than other cars of that era and if the car was regularly driven they were quite reliable. They don’t take kindly to being abused and if your that type of person you will find out the transaxles are fragile and other bits will break. The Busso is a strong performer if you keep up with its timing belt needs and regular maintenance. Head gaskets were an issue with the early cars until they came out with a one piece gasket which most if not all have been updated.
    Buying a car like this that has not run in years will take a considerable about of parts and money to get running again. And the question remains why was it parked in the first place? Timing belt failure? Driveshaft doughnuts? Transaxle woes?

    Like 7
  2. Ralph

    One of the worst, ugliest, most unreliable and horrible and ugliest cars ever made…..

    I’ll take the Eldorado please.

    Did I mention its ugly….and unreliable and ugly too…..

    Like 1
  3. -e-l--i-a-s-

    “I know what I have”. Classic….

  4. T-BONE BOB

    should be a good value at the price

  5. Marco

    We campaigned a couple of these in the 24 Hour Firehawk series at Watkins Glen for two years. When other cars were breaking down and dropping out, after 24 hours the Milano was still racing and finished 2nd in class. Say what you want about these cars but in my personal experience the Milano was a street fighter. Maybe Alfa’s many years of racing experience including a couple world championships has something to do with it? This particular car appears to wear the green Quadrifoglio badge on the trunk which would indicate it’s the higher performance “Verde” edition, but not sure

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      Definitely not a Verde, doesn’t have any of the other Verde bits (spoiler lip, airdam, flares, skirts, Recaro seats).

      All Milanos had a cloverleaf badge on the trunklid, color-keyed to the trim level: Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Verde.

      Like 1
      • alphasud Member

        It’s a Gold with Platinum wheels. I saw a couple 89 model year Milano’s with cloth interior a gold clover and platinum wheels. The silver model had hubcaps. They were cleaning out the parts bins. Just like the Spyder for 94 were 93’s that had reassigned VIN numbers at the port.

  6. steve sammut Member

    well, the listing has been removed. If you are in to these, $2k seems like an excellent starting point, provided rust is minimal. Pictures don’t show a lot of issues. I’d take one of these over an Eldorado any day of the week.

    Like 1
  7. Fogline

    Gone!

  8. Will Owen Member

    Well, THAT was fast!

    We are on our second one. Bought the first when we lived in Nashville, from Spruell Motors outside of Atlanta. Had to replace the transaxle, just before packing up what didn’t fit on the moving van and driving it (with no real problems) out to Pasadena, where it was THE car until we got a Forester. Sold it, missed it, got another as soon as I had the chance. Now on a Hagerty policy as my Hobby Car. Yes, it can be a tad cranky, but that just confirms it as part of the family.

    Like 1
  9. Will Owen Member

    My old one was a Gold; I’ve driven a Verde and it was nice, but I prefer the seat upholstery in the Gold and (especially) Silver models (Gold=plush cord, Silver=grey tweed). Current one is a Platinum; I don’t care for this upholstery either, and I had to replace the ABS with the standard MC after it malfunctioned and set the rear brakes on fire!

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      The best combo would be a Gold model with the 3.0 engine, the front Brembo calipers, and my preference the Recaro seats. I really liked my Verde. I also liked my 164LS but it wasn’t light on its feet. Driving a car with low unsprung weight is hard to describe. Definitely pleasant experience with the DeDion rear axle.

  10. Will Owen Member

    Good observation, but my ideal Milano would echo the 75 with the TwinSpark 2-liter. There was a driving school at the Nurburgring (sp?) 20 years or so ago that used those as their school cars. Down a few hp from the 2.5 V6 but almost 200 lb lighter. If I had the time and money I could get one built, since I know of someone who has a TS or two in his garage. No dissing the Busso V6, but in my world lightness is not next to godliness, but identical.

  11. CJinSD

    If this car was parked because the rubber band broke or any of a number of other catastrophic reasons, isn’t it priced about 200% too high for a parts car? You can’t justify rebuilding the engine economically, and a replacement engine isn’t going to fall into your lap.

    Like 1
  12. Will Owen Member

    I think anyone who’s owned an Alfa or three (I’m up to four, not counting Mrs. O’s newish Giulia) will see “rubber band” or any similar “Fix It Again, Tony” crapola and dismiss whatever else said commenter might have to say.

    As with most European cars in our climate, the body is going to be the first thing to worry about … and the electrical gear and accessories along with it, especially if the car came with anything really fancy. The Milano’s weak links are the AR Control panel, the dingus on the dashboard that’s supposed to monitor everything and is in fact a screaming hypochondriac, and the start switch. The ARC is a computer board that cannot be diagnosed or repaired by much of anybody, so we are usually advised to “Live with it.” Luckily, the actual monitoring gauges work (usually) pretty well on their own. The other bugaboo is recurring sticky windows and frequently non-functioning switches. Those can be cleaned (VERY carefully) and the rubber window-gaskets given a careful WD-40 wipedown. A PITA, but there ya go.

    I’ve mentioned the badly-designed ABS on the fancy models, but the non-ABS brake MC is an easy fit, and not terribly expensive. As for the rest, body rust and crummy door gaskets are possible trouble, and if your clutch is getting stiff you need to replace it, or the actuating finger ‘way deep in its housing back there will fatigue and fall apart some day, probably in heavy stop-and-go traffic. AMHIK. But the engine and the transmission? Darn near bulletproof, unless you’re a ham-footed moron.

    Like 1
  13. Will Owen Member

    Sorry, but I neglected to mention that a faulty start switch can suddenly switch itself backwards so that there’s no power in the ON position, but everything on the dashboard light up in the OFF position. Nor is that switch repairable. Or easy to find.

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